The Telecaster is not just one of the greatest guitar designs, it is one of the greatest pieces of industrial design ever made. Leo Fender’s and Doc Kaufman’s masterpiece is as relevant today as it has ever been since it was introduced 64 years ago, a master of musical styles that could not even have been imagined when it was first produced.
So what can you do to make it even more attractive? Simple, take a US Standard and make it cheaper. The Special is Fender’s attempt to take a US made Fender, with all that attached mojo and sell it to a crowd who might otherwise go for a Mexican Fender – or even, shudder, a Gibson Special.
The model I played had a maple neck with a Vintage white body and black scratchguard. The finish was flawless, poly may not be glamorous but it is tough as hell and the neck join could not have been neater. There are two custom shop Texas Special pickups, a grease bucket tone circuit and a classic 3 saddle bridge. The saddles are compensated brass. I am actually getting a little hot just typing this.
The neck is a 9.5″ radius with 22 jumbo frets, but it is a little wider than a standard and simply gorgeous to play. Some complain that the 9.5″ neck on modern Fenders are a little bland – this has tons of character, it is just easy to play as well. The fretboard is perfectly finished and the frets immaculate.
The whole package feels immensely solid and well-put together and just fits against the body so perfectly. Lets plug it into this Vox AC4 and see what happens.
That bridge pickup – I’ve played some awful Teles from the early 80’s where that bridge tone just bites your head off – this is so different, clear, a ton of sparkle and so touch responsive. Dig in and those notes really growl and the whole guitar has a delicious sense of fight to it. Turn on a Soul Food pedal and the overdriven tone is just extraordinary, so clear, so much definition, so rich. Just an open G chord sounds so incredibly vibrant and complex.
Both pickups and you’ve got that lovely fruity tone that is so good for funk. Go for the neck and you’ve got a warm and fluid Hendrix-Gilmour tone that scrubs up for jazz as well.
Those pickups do add a degree of warmth to the show. Does it compare to a Standard? Tonewise, it is subtly different, and to these ears perhaps even better. Perhaps it sounds even better than a Baja Tele, which is as fabulous a guitar as I’ve played all year.
On the street it costs about £715. For a US Fender, beautifully made and designed with real care and imagination. It is really quite moving that a design so old can, with the smallest tweaks, still produce sounds so beautiful. 2 pickups and it produces so many great sounds.
It is simply magnificent. And I, dear reader, have bought it. £715? For all this? It is the bargain of the century.